Friday, 13 December 2013



Good evening, Synapse Circuit Readers! I hope that all is well with you and that you’ve managed to save up some pennies as I am going to give you a run down on some tech gifts for Xmas starting with mobile phones... Here we go!

This time last year I got myself a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 that is serving me very, very well! It was such a wonderful gift to myself! Oooh, yeah!

If you are due for an upgrade or you want to get rid of the crap phone that was sold to you as “ excellent phone...” then you need to read this!

As you can imagine the major phone manufacturers barring BlackBerry have ramped up the TV ads here in the UK as a run up to Christmas. If you are watching the ads and you’re trying to make a decision on obtaining a phone this year then this summary of the competition will help!

The Android is an operating system that just so happens to be the most popular in the world – surpassing Apple’s iOS on the iPhone! Android is free and therefore many manufacturers exploit it: Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei, ZTE and so many more. As a result the consumer has many, many options! These myriad of Android choices can also cause confusion. We’ll sort you out in due course!

Then there is the iPhone! At the moment Apple is showing that it has run out of steam with innovation with the iPhone and that is why it waning in popularity. What makes the iPhone attractive is that it is simple as there is only ONE model – even with the iPhone 5C that is encased in plastic. Therefore, Apple can create a much optimised experience for the iPhone user. Again, in comparison to Android phones, there are no other options for the consumer which, in one sense, make the iPhone an easy choice to make in all the confusion.

Windows / Nokia handsets are proving to make some impact on the market and that comes largely, I believe, from their 41MP (megapixel) camera on the Lumia 1020! However, the operating system is not as advanced, in my opinion, as Android or the iPhone’s iOS. That said, it would seem that Windows is making gains over BlackBerry (we’ll come to BlackBerry later). Another aspect to take in consideration is the availability of apps for the Windows operating system; iOS and Android have considerably more apps available!
As for BlackBerry... ...from where I am sitting it looks as though BlackBerry is on its last legs. They had a good run but fell behind the iPhone and subsequently the unstoppable Android with Samsung leading the market. And now it looks as though they have also been usurped by Windows mobile! I would be surprised if BlackBerry were to be in existence this time next year! I do think that BlackBerry is a no go! That’s my opinion!

At the moment it is Samsung, LG, Sony and HTC that are the leading top brands using the Android operating system.

The recommended handsets – if you are looking to upgrade your contract are the following:

Samsung Galaxy Note 3
In my opinion the Galaxy Note 3 blows the competition out of the water! It is superb and the best that money can buy! The Galaxy Note 3 is my top choice at the moment; what’s there not to like? The 13MP camera is outstanding and records full 1080p and 4K video with tremendous quality! The pictures are quite stunning!

The S Pen is a great improvement upon the one found in the Note 2! With the 5.7” screen it is arguable if you’d require a tablet. You can be so very productive with the Note 3.

The only negative that I see for many people is the size of the phone may make it cumbersome to hold. I personally found it was a massive improvement over the Note 2! I would also recommend getting a case for it straightaway! If I could upgrade my Note 2 then this would be my choice!

Watch out for some attractive deals from the various vendors!

Samsung Galaxy S4
I know, I know... I must come across as being Samsung biased and in some way you are right for thinking so. But, once again, I am not only a reviewer I am a consumer too! I want what I think is the best!

I have the Galaxy S4 and I am so very happy with it! Almost every weekend I take some time out to travel into Central London to take photos with the S4 to pass the time. I personally find the S4 design to be very ergonomic; it fits in my hands beautifully, it’s fast and the battery is removable! I find that with a serious amount of use the battery can last for a whole day! Some people criticise the plastic chassis but it makes for a more robust phone. Plus the design lends itself to having a protective case to preserve it! I do feel that some phones may look better i.e. the HTC One but you wouldn’t really want to place a case over it. Whereas the S4 range of cases compliments the design. I honestly prefer the S4 to any other! I hate that some amazing looking handsets don’t feature a removable battery!

I have seen some good online rental deals which seem to be fluctuating all the time. So, make sure you take a good look!

First of all I LOVE the design! I think the LG G2 is one of the best designed handsets on the market, yes, above the HTC One! I guess some people think I am crazy! Lol! But I have to say that this came off the paper or screen of the concept artist! I love the all round thin bezel! It is outstanding!

It features a brilliant 13MP camera with an optical stabilizer; it records full HD video at 60fps, a fast processor and an amazing battery life! Just tap twice on the screen to wake it up!

Sony Xperia Z1
I like this handset so very much, the Sony Xperia Z1 is beautifully designed and it does feel premium in comparison to the Galaxy S4.But, obviously, I have placed the S4 (and LG G2) above it. Still, the Xperia Z1 is not far behind the S4!

It features an excellent 20.7MP camera, it is fast and the 5” screen is wonderful. The only thing that I am not too keen on is the non-removable battery! Bummer!

That’s my top 4 handsets that I would recommend on contract. The maverick 5th would be the Galaxy S3 which has come down in price on contract. It is also possible to buy it outright but is it worth it? We’ll see...

You may wish to purchase a handset outright for a multitude of reasons such as a damaged screen that will cost more than it is worth to fix; you don’t have a good amount of storage and therefore you can’t make use of these wonderful but large applications that use up the storage, etc. Enter the cost effective smartphones...

Yes, Android is currently leading the trend for outstanding budget but powerful handsets on the market today! Here’s the rundown of the best!

Google / LG Nexus 5, £299 (16GB) and £339 (32GB)
My first impression was and still is, “WOW!” Some people may find the design bland but I LOVE the design! Oh, the screen is a delight! The 4.95” screen packs an amazing 445 ppi pixel density which makes for crystal clarity! The Nexus 5 features an 8MP camera that shoots full HD video, a fast quad processor and 2GB RAM! So, you do get a lot for your money! The 8MP camera isn’t quite a letdown as you might think when comparing it to the aforementioned Galaxy S4, G2 and Xperia Z1, for example, but you may not require such a high spec camera – especially if you just want to share snapshots with social networks. 8MP is enough! If I had a spare £339 I would get a Nexus 5 to replace my HTC One X! Again, the battery is non-removable but I would chance it! Anything is better than the HTC One X battery which is a joke! Bah!

Acer Liquid S1 Duo, £289
You know something? Acer sometimes gets unfair reviews; I feel as though reviewers either didn’t understand some of their past efforts or didn’t want to. Sure, the efforts of Acer has been a mixed bag of power vs. features but with the Liquid S1 Duo I believe that Acer have come up trumps! Why? Good, I am glad you asked!
I, for one, love those huge Android handsets. I am going to have an Android I would like it to be a big as possible without it being too difficult to hold! The Liquid S1 Duo is close to being perfect in the hand; it’s the smooth plastic battery black plate that makes it a bit of a slippery customer to hold. I wish it was rubberised in some way. It’s thin enough at 9.6mm and it is comfortable when taking video and photos.

Here’s the full spec:

5.7 inch, HD 720p (1280 x 720), 257 PPI, Zero Air Gap

Main camera           
8 MP auto focus, f2.0, 28 mm lens, BSI sensor, LED Flash, 1080p video recording

Front camera          
2 MP, f2.2, 24 mm lens, 88-degree wide angle, BSI sensor, 720p video recording

Quad-core 1.5 GHz

8 GB

1 GB

2400 mAh, replaceable Li-polymer battery

Talk time: up to 11 hours

Standby time: up to 450 hours

163 x 83 x 9.6 mm

195 g (with battery)

HSPA+ / WCDMA: 900 / 2100 MHz
GSM / GPRS / EDGE: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
3G download speed up to 42 Mbps

Wi-Fi® 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth® 4.0 LE
micro SDTM slot, micro USB, 3.5 mm audio jack

Light sensor, accelerometer, proximity, digital compass

Dual micro SIM

Operating system  
Android™ 4.2

User Interface         
Acer Shell 5.7, Acer Float UI

AcerCloud, Acer Music, Acer Photo, Acer Video
Acer HD channel

Acer Docs, Acer Remote Files, Acer Print
Polaris Office
Swype Keyboard
Google Keep™, Evernote

Acer Auto Profile
Acer Data Traffic Manager
Acer Easy Hotspot
Acer My Style

Special Features   
Acer Float Caller
Acer Float Maps / Notes / Camera / Calculator
Acer Live Screen™
Wireless Display

Yes, it is a mixed bag! Lol! However, it is a good mixed bag! Essentially, Acer have rebuilt the original Galaxy Note and made it a little more inexpensive new! You can pick up a new Galaxy Note for around £329. It’s a difference of £40 but a difference nonetheless. I guess that £40 would have gone into a stylus! But the whole thing works a treat! I found the Liquid S1 to be a very fast phone, the 8MP camera to very, very responsive which was a surprise given that some premium phone cameras can be quite fussy about taking night and HDR shots. With my Galaxy S4 I have to hold the camera rock steady for night and HDR shots otherwise the image is blurred; not so with the Liquid S1 Duo! I found the quality to be very good but not as good as the premium handsets aforementioned. Thankfully, the camera is a massive improvement than what’s on the Liquid E2 handset.
One of the special features is voice activation; by uttering a phrase the Liquid S1 Duo is unlocked. Cool! It’s quite a neat (hee hee... GeekSpeak) feature but I would imagine that if someone with ill intent overheard that person could steal the phone and repeat the activation phrase. It would have been something if the handset could actually read an individual speech pattern. I wonder if a good impressionist could fool such a speech recognition system.

Just like the Galaxy Note the Liquid S1 Duo can have several apps floating on the screen – even a call! I like it!

The Acer Liquid S1 Duo is a decent phablet with an attractive price tag! Unfortunately it’s not 4G compatible, it’s no big deal.

And... ...last but not least...

...Motorola Moto G, £119.95 (8GB) and £149.95 (16GB)
Now Motorola says the days of purchasing a second hand yesteryear handset is over when wishing to join the smartphone user ranks. Here’s the Moto G! The Moto G comes to the rescue if you were duped by “budget” Android handsets below £100. Perhaps “duped” is a strong word but you should already know by now what I think about these sub £100 Android handsets: a big compromise! A compromise on processor, RAM and storage space! Great for making phone calls and bad for the installation of popular apps! Hardly ideal!

The Moto G is pretty much yesteryear’s handset at an extremely knockdown price. For example, it features a 5MP camera that shoots 720p HD video and a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor. So, it is still a compromise that won’t cost the Earth. Plus the 1 GB RAM and basic 8 GB storage will ensure that you’d be able to install essential apps!

The Moto G will make for a handset for teenagers, those who require more than one handset and to replace a damaged handset. Yes, it’s quite versatile!

Stay tuned for more reviews to come.

Watch this space!

Take good care!

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